Simple questions: What is PowerShell & What can you do with it?

While many casual users know about the Command Prompt , few have heard about Windows PowerShell . PowerShell is a tool that's much more powerful than the Command Prompt . I n a way, it 's also intended to replace the Command Prompt , as it delivers more power and control over the Windows operating system. That's why we decided to get a taste of PowerShell and then explain to all our readers what this tool is, why it is so powerful and who tends to use it more often. Let's see what PowerShell is and what you can do with it:

What is PowerShell?

To give you a better understanding of PowerShell , we should first define what a shell is. No, we're not talking about a turtle's shell. :) In computer science, a shell is a user interface that gives you access to various services of an operating system. A shell can be command-line based or it can include a graphical user interface (GUI).

Windows PowerShell is a shell developed by Microsoft for purposes of task automation and configuration management . This powerful shell is based on the .NET framework and it includes a command-line shell and a scripting language.

On top of the standard command-line shell, you can also find the Windows PowerShell ISE . ISE stands for Integrated Scripting Environment , and it is a graphical user interface that allows you to easily create different scripts without having to type all the commands in the command line.

To give you an idea of how powerful PowerShell really is, it should be enough to keep in mind that it has been used across the entire Microsoft ecosystem ever since Windows NT 4.0 for all types of operations.

The first version of PowerShell was released in November 2006 for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Vista. T he latest version of PowerShell is Windows PowerShell 5.0 and it is delivered by default with Windows 10. It also works with Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and Windows 8.1 (Pro and Enterprise editions).

What can you do with PowerShell?

Microsoft designed Windows PowerShell as a tool that helps you automate and quickly solve a lot of tedious administration tasks. For example, you can use PowerShell to display all the USB devices installed on one or multiple computers in a network or you can set a time consuming task to run in the background while you do other work. You can also identify and kill processes that are not responding or filter specific information about computers in a network and export it in HTML format.

PowerShell's capabilities allow you to simplify and automate tedious and repetitive tasks by creating scripts and combining multiple commands together.

If you are a network administrator, you will find that PowerShell very helpful in working with Active Directory. Given that it contains hundreds of customizable commands, which are called cmdlets , the degree to which PowerShell can help you become more productive is extremely high.

PowerShell lets you do a lot more than can be discussed in this single article, so if you really want to learn more about it, we highly recommend that you purchase and read Ed Wilson's book, Windows PowerShell 3.0 First Steps , which we reviewed here. If you'd rather get a glimpse of what's new in the latest iteration of Windows PowerShell for Windows 10, you should also check this official Microsoft web page: What's New in Windows PowerShell.

Where will you find PowerShell in Windows 10?

The fastest way to open PowerShell in Windows 10 is to use Cortana's search field from the taskbar. Enter the keyword " powershell" and then click or tap the Windows PowerShell search result.

Another way of opening PowerShell is to use the Start Menu. Launch Windows 10's Start Menu and navigate to the Windows PowerShell apps folder. Inside, you will find shortcuts for both PowerShell and PowerShell ISE. If you run the 64 bit version of Windows 10, you will also find entries for the x86 (32 bit) versions of the PowerShell apps.

Another fast way of launching PowerShell is to use the Run dialog. Press the Windows + R keys on your keyboard to open the Run window, enter " powershell" inside and then press on OK.

Regardless of the method you chose to launch it, the end result you will get is a PowerShell window similar to the one below:

Where will you find PowerShell in Windows 8.1?

If you don't have a tile for PowerShell on the Start screen, the easiest way to open it is by going to the Start screen and typing "powershell" . Then, select PowerShell from the results.

Another way of opening PowerShell is through the Apps view: go to the Start screen and move the cursor to the bottom left corner of the screen, just below the last tile on the first column. Click the down facing arrow icon to display the application list. On a touch-enabled device, go to the Start screen and slide upwards to access the Apps view.

Then, click or tap Windows PowerShell in the Windows System folder.

A third way of opening Windows PowerShell is by pressing Windows Key + R to bring up the Run dialog, then type "powershell" and finally click or tap on OK .

All these methods will launch Windows PowerShell and display it on screen as shown in the screenshot below.

Where will you find PowerShell in Windows 7?

In Windows 7, you can search for the word "powershell" in the Start Menu search box and click on the appropriate search result.

You can also use the mouse to navigate through the Start Menu and go to "Accessories -> PowerShell" .

Obviously, using the Run window, just like in Windows 8.1 or 10 also works.

Who tends to use PowerShell regularly?

Without any doubt, PowerShell is the weapon of choice for many IT administrators. And for good reason, since it can tremendously simplify management operations and effort in large corporate networks.

To give you an example, let's say you are managing a large network containing over five hundred servers and you need to implement a new security solution that is dependent on a certain service that has to run on those servers. You could, of course, log in to each server and see if they have that service installed and running. It is possible, but it's also very likely that your managers would complain that it took you way too long to finish the task.

If you use PowerShell , you could get to the bottom of that task in just a few minutes, since the whole operation can be done with only one script that gathers information about the services running on the servers you specify and dumps them into a text file, for instance. Now that's productivity!

Conclusion

As you can see from this article, Windows PowerShell is an incredibly powerful tool that is included in Windows. It brings many benefits to power-users and IT professionals. If you're an IT administrator and you use PowerShell regularly, please leave us a comment and share your experience with it. We'd love to hear how you are using this tool in your daily work.